Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Another Bowl Finished

The most recent bowl is finished and this is by far the most unusual texture I've ended up with in a felted object. It is definitely my favorite at the moment. I still have six skeins of this yarn and I'll be making some kind of felted bag with it; I might have to drop by the LYS and see if they have any more. The yarn I used was Tahki Yarns-Shannon; color 16. I know at one point that the LYS had this in a turquoise color too. Hopefully they still have some on the shelves.

Bowl measurements (after felting)
Height: 4 inches
Circumference: 29.5 inches
Width: 9 inches
Opening: 7 inches

These two little thumbnails show the detail of the texture before and after the attack of the fabric shaver. It really had a big effect on the finished project. I would definitely felt with this yarn again, it wasn't cheap, comparable in price to Noro Kureyon. It did felt a lot quicker for me than the Noro does and that is a big bonus.

And speaking of fabric shavers - my trusty little fabric shaver conked out on me during my previous felting project. So I had to get a new one. I'm not sure what everyone else uses for felting projects. I'm sure some don't defuzz at all. I just don't like the fuzzy texture. I've never tried a sweater stone, so I can't comment on how effect that method is. I did try a razor and found that it took way to long and I was always afraid that the blade would cut through something. So I've stuck with the fabric shaver.

This is a picture of the three fabric shavers that are currently residing in my knitting gear. The little red one is the one that gave out - the motor is dead. I had to change the batteries (2 AA) in it for each project and the lint had to be emptied often. It lasted about a year and really worked pretty well for that time. I bought it at Bed, Bath, and Bankruptcy and it was about $10 dollars. (It did come with a lint roller.) The little blue and white one was purchased at Wally World and was in the $5 dollar range. It was a complete waste of money. It hardly takes any fuzz off at all. The large one is the new one. It takes twice as many batteries as the other two (4 AA), but it also came with an adapter and can be plugged into the wall. The surface area of the shaver head is about twice as large too. This one was just over $20 dollars (including shipping). I bought it online from a sewing supply company. Hopefully it will last. I've got several felting projects in the cue, so it will be getting a thorough work out.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Bowl Me Over

Okay, the first two were easy and quick, so I decided to knit another bowl. This time I used the Sedona bowl pattern from Carol Bristol. I really like her patterns, but I wish she would have noted her gauge and pre-felting measurements for each bowl on the patterns.

I just don't think I'm getting the gauge she did - I used less yarn and there is no way the finished width noted in the pattern (36" w) is correct. It has to be a circumference measurement. I know the easy thing would be to go up a needle size, but I didn't want to wait for a new circular needle.

I did make a few adjustments to the pattern. I added several rows and added an increase. I used Tahki Shannon in color 16. Most people that see the yarn think it is ugly. But for some reason I love it. It is actually the first yarn I ever bought from a real yarn store. I bought 10 skeins and used four for this bowl. I thinking the remaining six skeins will end up as some type of felted bag.

The bowl is now ready for felting; I'm just waiting for my new fabric shaver to come in the mail. I had one that quit working during my last felting project. The motor burnt out. I bought another one at Wally World, but it doesn't work very well at all. So I ordered one from a sewing supply company online. It should be here tomorrow. I'll post about it after I get a chance to try it out.

I had to stuff this bowl with a sweater to get it to stand up for a picture. The bowl is currently about 18 inches wide and 11 inches tall. I finished it off with an i-cord bindoff. Stay tuned to see how it turns out.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Rockin' Sock Club

I joined Blue Moon Fiber Art's Rockin' Sock Club a couple weeks ago when they sent out an e-mail announcing a few openings to people on the waiting list. I got my first package in the mail today! I'm really glad I decided to join. I got a great package and of course the center piece of the package is the new color - Fairgrounds.

I wasn't sure about the color when I first opened the box, it probably isn't a color I would have picked out for myself. But the more I look at the skein, I'm loving it. I can't wait to get it wound into balls and to get started knitting new socks.

Part of the package is a new pattern that was written with the new color in mind. The pattern is different than any I've ever seen before and I think it will be a challenge for me to knit. It is called Rock and Wave by Karen Alfke. It has a cuff that is knit separately in linen stitch. It's cute and there are a couple of buttons on the cuff too. I am going to use this pattern and the Fairgrounds color for my next socks. I'll get them started this weekend. I really think this club is really going to expand my skills and knowledge of different knitting techniques.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

J is for Japanese Cobra Lily

This was my indulgent purchase after not being able to find anything at last weekend's pottery festival. The plant's botanical name is Arisaema sikokianum. It is also know as a Jack-in-the-Pulpit flower. I guess Jack in this case would be the small white protrusion (spadix) in the middle of the flower and it is about the size and shape of a miniature marshmallow. Varieties native to the US are also called Indian Turnips.

This flower was planted in my garden this weekend and is in a shady spot that gets a little sunlight. The tag says well drained soil too. I've never tried to grow one of these in my garden - so I hope I don't kill it. The picture below shows how the back of the flower resembles the hood of a cobra snake.

This variety is from Japan, but there are other varieties that can be found in the woods of North America. The American Indians used them medicinally to treat rheumatism and bronchitis and to induce sterility. Externally it was used as a treatment for snakebite. The plant was also used for food (probably where the turnip name comes from) - but the plant can be toxic. So I wouldn't recommend trying that out.

And for the art buffs out there, Georgia O'Keeffe painted a series of jack-in-the-pulpit flowers in 1930. Five of the six canvases can be seen on the website for the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC.

Keep your eyes open for them while hiking through the woods. In North Carolina, I think you would be most likely to find them near running water and in a slightly shady spot. They certainly are a sight to see!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Felted Bowls

The bowl on the left was knit using one skein of Lamb's Pride Bulky in Peacock. I used was the Large Bowl pattern from the Holiday Trio leaflet by Carol Bristol. The bowl on the right was knit with one and a half skein of Manos using the large bowl Pattern from One Skein.

The green bowl was blocked over a small mixing bowl with the top part of the knitting stretched over the opening of the mixing bowl. The variegated bowl was blocked with a stack of small bowls inside. You can see the ridges inside that the stack of bowls created.

Bowl measurements (after felting)
Height: 5 inches (LPB) / 5.5 inches (Manos)
Circumference: 20.5 inches (LPB) / 18.25 inches (Manos)
Width: 7 inches (LPB) / 6 inches (Manos)
Opening: 5 inches (LPB) / 5 inches (Manos)

What I really like is the texture of the felted fabric that the Manos created. You can see a close up to the left. It really doesn't look like stitch definition left, but it is a nubby bumpy texture. I haven't felted with anything else that created this kind of an effect.

I really like how the bowls came out and it was a very quick and easy project. What a great way to use extra feltable yarn from the stash.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Knitted Bowls

Soon to be felted bowls! I wanted a quick project and this definitely fit the bill. I was able to complete the knitting for two bowls over this last weekend in between attending a pottery festival on Saturday and yard work and plant shopping on Sunday.

I had planned on blogging about the trip to the pottery festival. I have a collection that I have built over several years and most of it has been purchased from local potters at these festivals. Most of the potters I like were not there this time - big bummer. Overall the whole thing was a big disapointment and I didn't come away with one single item. My husband was stunned. I usually find something - a spoon rest, a small gift item, but this time nothing. So Sunday I went to the open house at Plant Delights and cheered my self up with a special plant. I got a really neat Japanese Cobra Lilly - I'll post a picture of that tomorrow.

But Saturday evening I needed a quick pick me up that would satisfy that need for instant gratification that was still hanging around. So I took a look through my stash and came up with a lone skein that was crying out to be used. I decided to try a felted bowl.

This first bowl I made is out of one skein of Lambs Pride Bulky in peacock. The pattern I used was the Large Bowl pattern from the Holiday Trio leaflet by Carol Bristol. She has several bowl and basket patterns. I have a couple more of her patterns that I'm going to try. This one was really basic and would be very easy for a beginner to complete. It did take almost the entire skein. The bowl was knitted up from a square base and was knit on a 16" circular size 15 US needle. I haven't taken any pre-felting measurements yet, but I will and post all of that detail when I get the finished item on the blog. I'll try to get the finished results posted by Sunday. The biggest pain will be getting all the fuzziness off of this bowl because of the mohair content. Maybe I can just live with it for this little bowl.

The second bowl is out of a skein of Manos in the wildflower color that had been hanging around. I used the pattern that is in the Oneskein book put out by Interweave Press. I followed the pattern for the large bowl, but held a double strand of yarn throughout. The yarn I used wasn't as bulky as the yarn used in the pattern. I also applied a 3 stitch I-cord around the top of the bowl. It's a pretty thick fabric and I'm not sure how well it will felt. I probably should have used a larger needle size, but US15 was the largest I had. This bowl was knitted top down. So when I got to the bottom I needed DPNs. I don't have DPNs in size fifteen, so I used two circular needles.

Overall, the patterns for the bowls were really easy to follow and I used up some of the yarn in my stash. I'm hoping theses bowls felt up nicely. They will make nice little accents around the house or perfect little gift baskets.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

I is for Iris

I love growing iris. Most of the iris I grow right now are bearded iris. Bearded iris come in a wide range of sizes. Dwarf varieties may only be eight inches tall, but the tall bearded varieties can have stems up to four feet tall. I started growing iris when we moved into our house about three years ago. The ones pictured here are growing and blooming in my yard right now. Other varieties of iris are different in a lot of ways

Bearded iris come in a wide variety of colors - probably everything but a true red. Most of the ones I have pictured here are some shade of purple. I love purple flowers in the garden. Iris bloom here starting in late April and continue for several weeks.

Bearded iris grow from rhizomes - kind of a potato looking thing. The rhizomes are what multiple resulting in the iris spreading. They grow quickly - this means they are a great plant to share with friends that garden. You do have to divide iris when they become crowded or they will quit blooming. They also like a lot of sun and are very drought tolerant. Planting should be close to the surface no more than 1 inch below the soil. Sometimes you can actually see the top of the rhizome above the surface. If planted too deep, iris may not flower and will be more prone to rot.

The picture above really shows the reproductive parts of an iris flower. The main part of the flower that stands up is called the standard and the petals that arch down are called falls. The little spike in the center is called the anther and is what carries the pollen for the plant. The little arch way that the anthers sit under is the stigmatic lip. When pollen is transferred to this - the iris can produce seed. The little petal like things above that are the style arms. Seeds, if produced, will appear in the ovary that is located where the flower attaches to the stem.

The actual beard of the iris, is the fuzzy like structure that rests over the falls. In the picture above the beard is purple. See, I can't get away form the purple! Even the yellow iris have purple on them. This flower decide to bloom during a rainy day and looks a little worse for the wear.

Some bearded iris are very fragrant too. None of mine are. Next year I think I'll add a few Louisiana iris. They actually come from swamp lands and like lots of moisture much like Japanese iris; plus they have varieties that are true red.

In some respects gardening is just like knitting. There are the purists that say nothing but the best will do - anything else is crap. But my garden is kind of like my yarn stash. There are specialty items you can't live without and sometimes there is something you just can't walk away from that is sitting in the bottom of the bargain bin at Wal-Mart. In fact, four of the five iris pictured here came from the bargain bin at Wal-Mart.

My favorite garden plants are those that can be shared. I love getting cuttings and seeds from friends and being able to pass along plants from my garden. Bearded iris are definitely a pass along plant.

Monday, May 01, 2006

We be Jammin'

I didn't accomplish much in the way of knitting this weekend, instead I got a lot of yard work done on Saturday and part of Sunday. The rest of Sunday was spent picking strawberries and making jam. My husband and I went to pick strawberries at Pope's Farm in Knightdale. If you've never been strawberry picking you should go - the berries are much better than anything you can buy at the supermarket and cheaper! We each started with an empty bucket and picked berries for about 1/2 hour until our buckets were full. Well, the buckets hold about 10 pounds of berries each - so we ended up with twenty pounds of strawberries!

This is what twenty pounds of strawberries looks like:

There is no way the two of us can eat that many berries before they go bad. But when you are picking them - it's addictive. So on the way home form the farm, I decided I would make jam after I got some yard work finished. I ran to Wal-mart to get all the necessary supplies. I don't do a lot of canning - in fact, I've only made jam one other time and that was it. So, I needed jars and sugar.

I lined up all my supplies and searched for a how-to online so I could refresh my memory. Who new there were two different methods for processing the filled jars? Not me. Apparently there is a method where you use a hot water bath to seal the jars or something called the inversion method. All there is to the inversion method is filling and capping the jar then inverting it from anywhere from a minute to an hour to get it to seal. I decided to follow the safe advice and use the water bath method even though it is more involved and took a lot longer and I followed the recipe that came with the fruit pectin.

Who decides to do this type of time consuming task late on a Sunday afternoon? Well apparently I do - I am notorious for starting projects at inopportune times. But I always finish them in the end. The biggest pain was washing all the jars and lids. After everything has been washed and sanitized, you have to keep the jars and lids warm until you are ready to use them. My husband decided to steal a few of the berries and make us some yummy smoothies. So I got all that all set up and started to make the jam. It really is simple. Just a couple basic ingredients and heat, lots of heat!

And here you can see my strawberries being stewed alive in the boiling cauldron of death.

So I started this little project yesterday around 5:00, I finished around 9:30 or 10:00, but we will have jam for the rest of or lives. There are now 32 little jars of strawberry jam sitting on my counter waiting to be stashed away in the pantry. I'm going to have to find a home for some of it though... I just don't think my husband and I can eat this much jam.

This project was a lot of fun. I plan on going to the local farmers' market to see what else I can find to stuff into jars. I'm thinking I'd like to try some salsa next.